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arts / rec.arts.books.childrens / R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient

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* R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" andLenona
`* Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" andLenona
 `- Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" andLenona

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Subject: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
From: Lenona
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Subject: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and
Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
From: lenona...@yahoo.com (Lenona)
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You'd think EVERY major obit writer would have an obit ready and waiting to post...

"Gerda Weissmann Klein Dies: Holocaust Survivor, Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient And Subject Of Oscar-Winning Film ‘One Survivor Remembers,’ Was 97"

https://deadline.com/2022/04/gerda-weissmann-klein-dead-holocaust-one-survivor-remembers-film-1234994471/
 (this includes the short video of her speech at the 1996 Oscars; she starts speaking soon after the 1:30 mark)


To Gen Xers, she's better known as the writer of The Blue Rose, about a real girl who's maybe autistic.

And, you can see and hear that book right here!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uZxjNfbZfGQ
 (7:48 minutes)

The book was published in 1974. For some reason, when you try to find the text on other websites, the pages get listed out of order and/or some get omitted - but not in the video, thankfully.

And this is about a reprint of the book, in 2008:

https://buffalonews.com/news/a-kenmore-tale-aids-charity-holocaust-authors-touching-childrens-story-being-retold/article_6f208d7e-3bd4-5881-b060-9ed975d09210.html

(Kenmore is in New York State.)

The article implies that Jenny Innerfield was born in 1962, contrary to another source that says she was born in 1961. For what it's worth, in one photo from the YouTube reading - she's wearing a long dress and it's after the 3:10 mark - there's a clue that strongly suggests the photo was taken in 1970 or later. (Hint: she's holding the clue.) You figure out how old she looks, in that one.

https://groups.google.com/g/rec.arts.books.childrens/c/g3PVzIAoCyE/m/WJn4dTDkQa0J
 (birthday post from 2014 - with a LOT of information)


Subject: Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
From: Lenona
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Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2022 13:47 UTC
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Subject: Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and
Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
From: lenona...@yahoo.com (Lenona)
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https://buffalonews.com/obituaries/features/gerda-weissmann-klein-97-holocaust-survivor-who-turned-horror-into-compassion/article_eabd159c-b63d-11ec-b886-53c3a2171777.html

Excerpt:

....Born in Bielsko, Poland, the daughter of a fur manufacturing executive, she was in high school when the Germans invaded in September 1939. In her memoir, she thanked her father for encouraging her to wear sturdy ski boots as she was taken away. Both of her parents and her older brother died in the Holocaust.

In the final months of the war, she was among 2,000 women taken on a death march from a slave labor camp in Poland to Czechoslovakia. The 120 who survived were locked in an abandoned bicycle factory by German soldiers who rigged an incendiary device to the door. Fortunately, it failed to ignite. Liberating troops found them there the next day.

Lt. Klein was stationed near the hospital where she recovered and they became engaged in September 1945.

“Suddenly here was someone who understood my childhood and even knew the type of cookies my mother baked,” she told Buffalo News reporter Paula Voell in 2000. “It was like landing on the moon and finding someone who knew you.”

When he was sent back to the U.S., they exchanged letters for months. They rediscovered them many years later and published them in “The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in War’s Aftermath.”

They made a home on East Hazeltine Avenue in Kenmore and raised three children. Mrs. Klein was active in Temple Beth Zion and for 17 years wrote a column, "Stories for Young Readers," in The Buffalo News. Her husband, a printer, was president and owner of Kiesling-Klein Printing Co...

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2022/04/05/gerda-weissmann-klein-holocaust-survivor-dies-97-phoenix/9462038002/

....The march came after Klein spent nearly three years of similar conditions at Nazi work camps and three years before that living in her childhood basement in Poland hiding from the Nazis.

She survived.

Not because of superior physical strength or health, she told The Arizona Republic in 2020, but because of the optimism she never lost, which translated to hope that the suffering would end, which led to strength beyond what she knew she possessed.

"If we have hope even in the darkest moments, I think it's the most important weapon," Klein said. 'We all have an incredible amount of strength that we are not familiar with until we are really tested."

She said it's important not to let one's mind wander into the dark doubting corners of fear.

"I think we should always have hope and never give into the frightening thoughts," Klein said. "We always have the 'what ifs.' Well, what if we have incredible strength?"

Klein became a beacon of hope once more when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

People from all over the world reached out to Klein for advice to manage the fear and uncertainty that ran rampant in the early days of the pandemic.

Instead of finding the outreach overwhelming, she was touched. And instead of dismissing the concerns as incomparable to what she went through, she embraced them with empathy and offered advice without judgment...

(snip)

https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/article-703589

....Decades later, Weissmann Klein’s story became the basis of the 1995 HBO short documentary “One Survivor Remembers,” which won both an Emmy and an Oscar (and is currently available for streaming on HBO Max). The film’s director, Kary Antholis, had intended the movie to serve both as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps, and as a clarion call for action concerning the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides of the 1990s.

In Klein, Antholis found his ideal subject: a survivor who could articulate in the present day both the horrors of the camps, the miraculous resilience of the human spirit, and a general plea for tolerance and common humanity..

At the Oscars, Klein was almost played off before she could deliver an acceptance speech; but she stood her ground, and delivered a memorable message, concluding with, “Each of you who know the joy of freedom are winners.”
 
Kurt Klein died in 2002. In 2008, Weissmann Klein founded with her granddaughter, Alysa Ullman Cooper, the nonprofit Citizenship Counts, which teaches students across the country about civic rights and responsibilities.

For this and other humanitarian work, on Feb. 15, 2011, President Barack Obama presented Weissmann Klein with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States...
 
https://sfi.usc.edu/news/2022/04/33056-remembering-gerda-weissmann-klein
 (this includes video interviews of Klein and her husband)


Subject: Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
From: Lenona
Newsgroups: rec.arts.books.childrens
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Subject: Re: R.I.P. Gerda Klein, 97, Polish-born author of "The Blue Rose" and
Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient
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  Well, the NYT and the WaPo finally got around to her, starting on the 8th....

https://www.washingtonpost.com/obituaries/2022/04/08/holocaust-survivor-gerda-weissmann-klein-dead/

By Harrison Smith

When Gerda Weissmann Klein was liberated by American soldiers in May 1945, one day short of her 21st birthday, she weighed 68 pounds, had a shock of prematurely gray hair and had not bathed in three years. Her parents and only sibling were among the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, and her best friend had died in her arms the previous week during a 350-mile death march.

The Nazi regime and its collaborators had taken “all but my life,” as Mrs. Klein later put it in the title of a 1957 memoir. But she went on to spread a message of hope and tolerance, marrying one of her liberators and lecturing to audiences around the world with her husband, Kurt Klein, a German Jew who had immigrated to the United States as a teenager and returned to Europe as an Army intelligence officer.


....Speaking extemporaneously, with her composure rarely cracking, Mrs. Klein brought forth memories that were still vivid more than seven decades later. There was the family cat that stayed outside when Mrs. Klein and her family were forced to move into their basement, as a non-Jewish family took over the rooms upstairs. There was the intimidating, bulldog-faced German supervisor who once saved her life, whisking her out of the infirmary after an SS inspector began sending sick patients to the gas chambers. And there was the raspberry — slightly bruised — that her friend Ilse found in a gutter on the way to a factory, then kept in her pocket and gave to Mrs. Klein even though both women were starving.

For Mrs. Klein, the raspberry was a reminder that love and friendship could endure even in moments of hopelessness and despair, and could serve as a “sustaining force” when survival seemed impossible. “Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry,” she often said, “and you give it to your friend.”

....In an oral history with the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Kurt recalled that Mrs. Klein led him to a group of emaciated women “scattered over the floor on scraps of straw,” then “made sort of a sweeping gesture over this scene of devastation” and quoted a line by the German poet Goethe: “Noble be man, merciful and good.”

“There was nothing that she could have said that would have underscored the grim irony of the situation better. … It was a totally shattering experience for me.”

....Reviewing her memoir in the New York Times, Herbert Mitgang wrote that “her story, like Anne Frank’s, is not morbid but soul-searching and human.” Mrs. Klein later wrote children’s books including “The Blue Rose” (1974), about a girl with developmental disabilities, and “Promise of a New Spring” (1981), which used the allegory of a forest fire to teach young people about the Holocaust.

Her other books included “A Passion for Sharing” (1984), a biography of philanthropist Edith Rosenwald Stern, and “The Hours After” (2000), a collection of love letters that she and her husband wrote before their wedding.

Like Mrs. Klein, Kurt often spoke about his own experience during World War II and the Holocaust, when his parents were unable to join him in the United States and perished at Auschwitz. His story was featured in a 1994 episode of the PBS documentary series “American Experience.”...

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/08/world/europe/gerda-weissmann-klein-dead.html

By Clay Risen

....Two months later, the Germans liquidated the Bielsko ghetto, marching its inhabitants through the center of town to a line of trucks. Older adults and children were placed to one side, young adults to the other. Gerda lied about her age, saying she was 18, but when she realized she was being separated from her mother, she ran after her. The head of the Judenrat, a Nazi-imposed Jewish council, stopped her.

“You are too young to die,” he said, and he put her back on her truck. She later learned that her mother was murdered in a Nazi death camp.

Over the next three years, Gerda and three friends, along with hundreds of other young women, were sent to a series of work camps, barely kept alive on meager rations. At one point she considered suicide, even trading a piece of her jewelry for a small amount of poison.

By early 1945, with the war turning decisively against the Germans, Gerda’s captors evacuated their camp. Though the weather was freezing and snow piled on the ground, the captives were forced to march west. Hundreds died along the 350-mile trek. Gerda survived — in part, she said, because while many others wore sandals, she had her ski boots. She also had her imagination.

“If unfortunately you were a person that faced reality, I think you didn’t have much of a chance,” Mrs. Klein said in the film....

(snip)

Btw, here's a detail from the Jerusalem Post obit I posted days ago:

....With Allied forces swiftly approaching during the liberation of the concentration camps, Nazis barricaded Gerda Weissmann Klein and other Jewish survivors inside a barn, planting a time bomb outside. A sudden rainstorm disconnected the bomb’s wiring, and American forces found the barn and unlocked the door. ..


And, incredibly, it wasn't until AFTER all those obits that a couple of major TV networks took note!

https://www.nbc.com/today/video/holocaust-survivor-gerda-weissman-klein-dies-age-97/421893911
 (from yesterday - this includes very old photos of her family and husband)

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/passage-in-memoriam-4-10-2022/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCj9Z7-Ttyk
 (from her old home, Buffalo NY)

Finally, from a long speech she made about her life (not on video, I think) to students at Bala Cynwyd Middle School from January 16, 2003:

http://www.kleinfoundation.org/programs/bala_cynwyd2003.asp
 
(this is from the last third)

....When I remember that little bit from my own life, I remember a couple of days after I came to this country I overheard a boy say to his mother, “This lady is so stupid; she doesn’t even speak English.” I didn’t speak English but I speak other languages. I understood what he said. I thought, how strange and how bad that we cannot communicate, and that I cannot tell him what I am thinking because we don’t speak the same language. So perhaps, in a silent way, Jenny understands things which are way beyond our understanding cause she hears things. This is why I think it is so tremendously important for us to sometimes reach into somebody else’s life who might look different; who might play differently; or might be of a different color; who cannot speak our language – to try to understand the beauty and the greatness of their thoughts....


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